I’ve been meaning to write about MERANTAU, an Indonesian martial arts movie for some time and with Todd Brown’s publication of an excellent interview with its writer/director Gareth Evans and star Iko Uwais on Twitch, it’s time Kung Fu Cinema gave this upcoming silat film a nod.
The film has me excited for two big reasons. One, it’s being put together largely by folks new to the martial arts movie scene. Evans is a longtime martial arts movie fan who is shooting his first martial arts film. Uwais, a student of Silat is acting and doing screen fighting for the first time and the film’s fight coordinator Edwel Datuk Rajo Gampo Alam is a Silat Harimau master who is also new to filmmaking.
Second, the film is tackling Silat, a martial arts style that we haven’t seen represented in any substantial way before. For some, this lack of experience could be a problem but from behind-the-scenes footage that has been released it looks like the production team is using this opportunity to put together action scenes from a fresh angle.
Here’s the official synopsis for the movie.
In Minangkabau, West Sumatra, Yuda (Iko Uwais), a skilled practitioner of Silat Harimau is in the final preparations to begin his “Merantau,” a century’s old rites-of-passage to be carried out by the community’s young men that will see him leave the comforts of his idyllic farming village and make a name for himself in the bustling city of Jakarta.
After a series of setbacks leave Yuda homeless and uncertain about his new future, a chance encounter results in him defending the orphaned Astri (Sisca Jessica) from becoming the latest victim of a European human trafficking ring led by the wildly psychotic, Ratger (Mads Koudal) and his right-hand man Luc (Laurent Buson).
With Ratger injured in the melee and seeking both his “merchandise” and bloody retribution, Yuda’s introduction to this bustling city is a baptism of fire as he is forced to go on the run with Astri and her younger brother Adit as all the pimps and gangsters that inhabit the night hound the streets chasing their every step.
With escape seemingly beyond their grasp, Yuda has no choice but to face his attackers in an adrenaline charged, jaw-dropping finale.
Newcomer Iko Uwais is an expert in Pencak Silat, the international term for the broad-ranging martial arts of Indonesia. Uwais comes from the Silat Tiga Berantai school in Jakarta. He came to British director Gareth Evans’ attention during the production of a documentary in Jakarta.
Like kung fu, Silat is made up of many different schools and styles. According to Uwais, its defining quality is the presentation of its movements. “During a demonstration Silat uses a lot of kicks and punches, accompanied by traditional music and is very closely associated with the teachings of Islam as a means of character building especially in my master’s school.”
As this is his first film, Uwais admits to being “very challenged” by making the transition from tournament fighting to screen fighting, largely because of the need to control his movements so as not to injure his onscreen opponents. Uwais worked with Gareth Evans and Edwel Datuk Rajo Gampo Alam to come up with screen fighting techniques and shooting styles.
Laurent Buson is a martial arts actor we have written about before. He’s a French expatriate based in China where he has extensively studied wushu and now is an active member of the first foreign martial arts action team in China. We’ve previously featured his short film, DUEL. That film, as well as four other Z Team productions can be downloaded free at Z-Team.net.
MERANTAU went into production in December of 2008. Since then, its progress has been chronicled online through a series of behind-the-scenes video blogs. You can view all the posts posted to date below. To catch upcoming entries and other updates visit the film’s official web site.
silat • upcoming